WASHINGTON -- Private emails tied to the "Fast and Furious" scandal reveal Attorney General Eric Holder fiercely attacking his critics, saying the Republican lawmaker leading a congressional probe into the matter just wanted to "cripple" a law enforcement agency and "suck up to the gun lobby."
At the time, the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., was raising alarms over the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives investigation in Arizona that put guns into the hands of criminals in Mexico, two of which ended up at the murder scene of a U.S. Border Patrol agent.
As Issa was looking to bring more witnesses before his committee to testify in April 2011, Holder's chief of staff warned the attorney general in an email that the matter "keeps escalating."
"Issa and his idiot cronies never gave a damn about this when all that was happening was that thousands of Mexicans were being killed with guns from our country," Holder shot back in an email. "All they want to do -- in reality -- is cripple ATF and suck up to the gun lobby. Politics at its worst."
That email was just one of more than 64,000 pages turned over to lawyers within the House on Tuesday -- just hours before polls across the country close in a hotly contested battle between Republicans and Democrats for control of the Senate.
The Election Day dump of documents came after a lengthy court fight over whether the Justice Department must turn over certain documents detailing the department's response to media reports uncovering "Fast and Furious." Over the summer, a federal judge refused to let the department withhold those documents.
Among other documents turned over Tuesday was an email offering the first contemporaneous evidence that Holder knew nothing about the ill-fated gunrunning probe while it was under way.
Memos briefly describing "Fast and Furious" had been sent to Holder's office at the time, and Justice officials have long accused Republicans of leaking those memos to the media in an attempt to tie him to the botched investigation.
But when news reports mentioning those memos were forwarded to Holder in late 2011, he privately responded to colleagues by saying, "I didn't read them. I rarely do."
Nevertheless, many of the documents released contain redactions, and Issa and other Republicans believe they contain pieces of information "that embarrass or otherwise implicate senior Obama administration officials" in a cover-up, Issa told ABC News.
"I am deeply concerned that some redactions to these documents may still be inappropriate," Issa wrote in a statement, adding that the production of the documents was "a victory for the legislative branch, a victory for transparency, and a victory for efforts to check Executive Branch power."